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Friday, December 31, 2010

From the locker room

MEMPHIS - I was on the field in the waning moments of the Liberty Bowl, and was struck by two things: The stunned, helpless frustration of the Georgia sideline, and the invective - not much, but notable - being hurled by a few fans at their Bulldog team.

No cursing, but when they're calling for Hutson Mason on the final drive, you know it's been that kind of game.

Afterwards, Blair Walsh probably had the kind of words that those fans would most appreciate.

“It’s embarrassing to be part of a losing season, it absolutely is," he said. "My three years haven’t been what I wanted them to be, success and the team-wise. And we’ll change that. The culture of our program is changing, and I think the players are changing as well. We’ve got a new regime of seniors in and we’ll go from there.”

More Walsh:

“Our attitude needs to change. We’re not entitled to win any games. Even though it was UCF, it was Conference USA, I think we felt like we were entitled to win this game. We can’t feel that way. They’re a great team, they absolutely are. But we need to play better and win. At the end of the day you’re playing football, you’re not playing conference, and which conference is better.”

Walsh mentioned that sense of entitlement a few times, including in a tweet he sent a few minutes later. Did the Bulldogs have a false sent of superiority over Central Florida just because of the difference in conferences? Who knows, but after Friday's game, UCF may be a bit more attractive to the Big East, and the SEC may be ready to give Georgia a big kick in the you-know-what for not representing the league well on national television.

A few more quotes:

- Richt was asked if he regretted kicking the field goal on the opening drive, rather than going for it on fourth-and-inches from the 3.

“Well if I’d known what the final score was, yeah. But I think it was the right thing to do at the time,” he said. “I think a couple players were upset that I didn’t go for it at that time. But I was like, if you wanna make it, make it on third-and-one, don’t tell me you wanna go for it on fourth-and-one.”

- Aaron Murray wasn't available to talk to the media. But Richt said the glove-wearing was because the quarterback had thrown in them under wet conditions in practice, and just felt comfortable doing so on Friday.

"I don’t think that was a factor (in Murray's performance)," Richt said. "It was more windy than it was wet. But I don’t think the wind was a factor. I think he just misfired, and probably tried to force it a couple times.”

- A.J. Green reiterated that he hasn't made a decision on the NFL, and said he wouldn't for at least a couple days.

But Walsh, who has also submitted his name to the NFL draft advisory committee, said he's coming back.

- Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo gave credit to Central Florida for mixing up its blitzes, and said Georgia didn't do a good enough job on third down.

"We've gotta go back and re-dedicate ourselves to doing what it takes, and that includes every single man, every single coach, everybody in the Butts-Mehre to do what it takes to be a championship team," Bobo said.

Second half blog

6:00 left in game, Georgia still trails, 10-6

Well, it hasn't gotten any prettier yet for Georgia. And if it does, I'll have to write about it a little later - I have to head down to the field to get ready for postgame.

Hopefully I'll be able to post quotes here as soon as possible afterwards. But with New Year's early deadlines I have to hack out some stories too.

9:01 left in fourth quarter, UCF takes a 10-6 lead

I never felt like a Georgia loss in this game would be a disaster. Then again, I never really thought the Bulldogs would lose.

Now, for the first time this game, they are trailing, after UCF moves downfield and scores on a 10-yard run by Latavious Murray.

Considering how ugly this game has been, if Georgia were to lose, it would be quite a fitting indictment to finish such a mediocre season. Hell, you could term it less than mediocre.

But hey, there's still nine minutes left, and perhaps overtime. (God forbid.) So we'll see.

10:00 left in fourth quarter, Georgia still leads 6-3

I'm looking at a Liberty Bowl awards ballot that asks me to vote for MVP, and most outstanding players on offense and defense for each team.

If anyone can think of anything or anyone outstanding about this, lemme know.

4:00 left in third quarter, Georgia still leads 6-3

It just hasn't gotten any more exciting here. And Aaron Murray is still wearing gloves.

The longer Georgia lets UCF hang in there - and it does feel like it's letting it - the more danger there is. To be fair, the Knights defense is proving to be as stingy as its stats would indicate, but the Bulldogs also aren't getting breakaway plays.

It's almost like Georgia is content to ride its defense, and play conservative on offense, avoid turnovers. Not sure that's a great idea. Murray has had bad starts, like the Florida game, and steadied himself. And whenever you've got A.J. Green, not to mention Orson Charles, Kris Durham and Tavarres King - you use them.

9:23 left in third quarter, Georgia takes 6-3 lead

Georgia's opening drive of the second half looked a lot like its first of the opening half: Methodical, no long plays and ending with a field goal. (Though this time it was the obvious decision to kick it.)

And yes, Aaron Murray is still wearing gloves, and this time he didn't throw a pick. That's getting a lot of attention, and we've been kind of making light of it, but to be honest the wind has been a bigger factor here.

On that drive, Bruce Figgins got a lot of action at fullback, and looked pretty good doing it. He also got a pass near the end of the drive.

Speaking of the blocking, Washaun Ealey has had a pretty solid game so far. He just hasn't broken a long one yet.

Halftime thoughts

- Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz .........

- This game is matching the atmosphere at the half-filled stadium. Georgia has slightly more fans here, but UCF's have been louder, especially in the second quarter.

- I suspect Mark Richt already regrets not going for it on the opening drive, and settling for the field goal. I mean, it's a bowl. Gotta play it like one.

- Aaron Murray's halftime stats: 13-for-18, 114 passing yards, and two big interceptions. He started the game 6-for-6, along with a 9-yard scramble. Maybe his worst half of the season.

- Georgia gets the ball to start the second half. Time to open it up, throw downfield, do something creative. In all due respect to UCF's highly-ranked defense, it's still a Conference USA team. The Bulldogs are bigger and faster and have the most explosive receiver in the country, so they should be able to uncork more than a few big plays.

First half blog

End of half, tied at 3

Well, turns out Aaron Murray had at least one more interception in him. I guess the wind, and that glove, is having an effect after all.

This time UCF was able to capitalize, at least with a game-tying field goal. Georgia's defense was able to hold at the 5, but it got some help from a curious decision by UCF to spike it on first down from the 5: The Knights had two timeouts left, and didn't end up using either of them.

I hope that half was as invigorating for those of you watching at home as it was for us watching in person.

2:45 left in first half, Georgia leads 3-0

It was about to get a bit embarrassing for Georgia there, but Brandon Boykin stepped in. Well, him and the UCF offensive coordinator, who for some reason felt a lob pass into the end zone was a good idea. It wasn't.

Boykin easily picked off the pass, snuffing out a UCF scoring drive that had reached inside the Georgia 5-yard line.

It was a good thing for the Bulldogs that the Knights elected to go to the pass there. Georgia's run defense is back to its South Carolina-game levels. Except I'm pretty sure Latavious Murray, bless his heart, isn't at the level of Marcus Lattimore. But he was gashing the Bulldog defense.

7:49 left in first half, Georgia still leads 3-0

Aaron Murray started this game really well, with six completions, but now ... uhhhh ...

Murray was picked off on third down just now, snuffing out Georgia's second drive into UCF territory. It was his first interception since the Florida game. Murray had faltered on a few other passes before that too.

Georgia's also having trouble getting a consistent run game going. UCF may not be much on offense - it's all-league quarterback has looked overmatched so far - but its defense has stiffed up since the opening drive.

12:15 left in second quarter, Georgia still leads 3-0

It's been a conservative start for Georgia, and not just with the field goal-over-going for it decision. The Bulldogs just punted, after a drive that reached midfield but stalled after a first-down sack.

That sack, on a play-action against a UCF blitzing back, actually appeared to be one of the more adventuresome play calls by the Bulldogs. Otherwise, it's been a lot of short to mid-range passes. They also tried the one downfield bomb to A.J. Green, but it was incomplete.

Just kind of a slow, boring game so far, to be quite honest. For a bowl game, neither team is doing much risky.

2:02 left in first quarter, Georgia takes 3-0 lead

Hmmm. I guess Mark Richt really wants to get that winning record. Rather than go for it on fourth-and-inches from the 3, he sent out Blair Walsh for the chip-shot field goal.

In any case, it was a good opening drive for the Bulldogs, blending the run and pass, very methodical. Mike Bobo called high-percentage passes for Aaron Murray, now known as The Gloved One, at least for the rest of the time he wears gloves. Tavarres King also had a fantastic one-handed catch, doing a good impression of his road roommate, A.J. Green.

My early impression, and feel free to remind me later if I turn out to be completely wrong, is that Georgia is just way too talented, and way too big, for Central Florida. I thought coming in that UGA should get a convincing win, and the first 13 minutes haven't done anything to change that.

11:15 left in first quarter, no score

Special teams is an early factor in this one, and not in Georgia's favor: It took a holding penalty to wipe out a 99-yard kick return touchdown by UCF to open the game. Then a fortuitous bounce allowed the Knights to down a punt at the Georgia 2.

The Georgia defense didn't look so hot to start the game, but it tightened up after a few first downs. It helped that the Knights turned to the pass, and 5-foot-11 quarterback Jeff Godfrey had trouble getting the ball over the UGA line and close to any receivers.

By the way, the rain has continued to hold off, but the wind is a factor. It looks to be about 20-30 mph, on average. I also wonder whether the lack of a big crowd - the 62,000-seat capacity stadium is about half-full - will contribute to the energy.

Gameday blog

3:15 p.m.: If you're reading this from home ...

Then you're not alone. The Liberty Bowl is less than half full about 20 minutes before the scheduled kickoff. And as I gaze out onto the parking lots, I don't exactly see a crush of cars waiting to get in.

2:50 p.m.: Weather, player updates

It's still overcast here, but the rain has held off. So the conditions at kickoff, at least, will be normal. I'm not a weather man, but judging by the skies I'd say it's 50-50 that serious weather hits the stadium at some point during the game.

Georgia is warming up right now, and there's no major personnel news. Rantavious Wooten is out of uniform, so Georgia is down at least one backup receiver. Good news for Israel Troupe and Logan Gray.

Vance Cuff might be starting at cornerback, judging by the warmup lines. Shawn Williams was also with the starters, in place of Alec Ogletree, but Ogletree was working with the first-team in the ensuing pregame drills. Cuff I could see starting as a nod to his senior status. Not really sure why Ogletree wouldn't start.

2:20 p.m.: Uniform, dog updates

Central Florida's specialists have come out in that team's uniform of choice: Black shirts and gold helmets. Along with a white helmet, I don't know, it kind of makes for an odd, mish-mash combination. Kinda clunky.

Georgia will be in its more traditional white shirt and gray pants, along with the red helmet.

The Bulldogs also have their backup mascot, Russ. If you haven't heard, Uga VIII is being held out of the game with a gastro-intestinal condition. If he's anything like my dog, Archie, he probably has been spending too much time in the cat litter box.

1:25 p.m.: Mr. Blog Man arrives in his press box seat

You are looking live, well at least I'm looking live, at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, which is kind of cool in a throwback, dinky kind of way.

The stadium slopes in a double-circle fashion, with the press box sides the peaks, and then dipping in the middle. The scoreboards are at the middle parts, and aren't exactly new and flashy.

The end zones are interesting: Half of each one is blue, with the team name painted in white, while the other half are red and white block stripes.

We're high enough up here in the press box so that if there is a tornado, we'll be able to see it coming - unless it forms behind us. If that happens, someone warn me, OK?

MEMPHIS - I just completed a mid-morning jog, and can officially report that the weather outside, well it looks a bit ominous.

They're calling for a 60 percent chance of rain, and possible tornadoes around the Memphis area. Lovely. The good news is the temperature is tolerable, after the week started with it appearing we could be playing a game on the frozen tundra of the Liberty Bowl field.

I've also noticed a lot more Georgia and UCF fans around town as the week went on; they dominated the breakfast area at my hotel, with about even split. But I still suspect more Georgia fans will be around.

(Still, there's about a zero chance of a sellout, or anything approaching it today. In a conversation with a Liberty Bowl official earlier in the week, the official was practically begging me to get word back to Georgia that tickets were still available.)

Perhaps, when Georgia and UCF take the field later today, we can avoid an officiating calamity, unlike a couple bowls on Thursday. Poor Derek Dooley, whose team is now 6-2 in games it won this year.

And how about North Carolina, not only getting away with winning in questionable fashion, but getting away with calling a run play, and one in which it had to change personnel before a simple spike play. Even Les Miles was watching that play and saying, "You know, that's bad clock management."

As for Kansas State-Syracuse ... Yeesh.

Today's NCAA college football: You're free to play in the bowl if you sell stuff and break the rules ... but you better not salute!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Richt defends his record

Mark Richt was fairly unflappable when he was under intense fire earlier this season. Eventually, the fire receded.

Then on Thursday, on the eve of the Liberty Bowl, the Georgia head football coach came as close as he has to issuing a defense.

It was at the tail end of a routine pre-bowl press conference, and Richt was discussing – as he has before – the importance of putting wins and losses in perspective. But he also felt the need to point something out.

“I think I’m like the fourth-winningest coach in America,” Richt said. “That’s not bad.”

Richt is 96-33 in 10 seasons at Georgia, with a winning percentage of .744. That’s fifth in the country, but fourth if you take out first-place Urban Meyer, who is stepping down from Florida after the Outback Bowl. (Richt was fourth in the country when this season started.)

From covering Richt throughout this season, the statement kind of jumped out. For one he's not the kind of guy to toot his own horn. Richt never jumped into the debate over his job security earlier this season, when the Bulldogs started 1-4. Then the team rebounded, and prior to the Auburn game, when the Bulldogs were 5-5, athletics director Greg McGarity announced that Richt would be back.

Richt’s comment on Friday came in response to a question about whether his steadfast nature, guided by his Christian faith, leads people to confuse that with not caring enough about wins and losses.

“They might,” Richt said, nodding. “But I’ve been doing it that way for 20-some years. Twenty-five. I love the game of football. I love to compete. I love the winning. But I don’t ever want to put that ahead of a young man’s ability to get his degree, a young man’s ability to learn right from wrong.

“We are still educators in my opinion. And we educate these young guys not only academically but when it comes to life in general.”

Richt then spoke for a bit longer on dealing with adversity, and how the team held together this season. A short time later he made his fourth-winningest comment, adding:

“We’ve got a lot of rings and watches and championships and all that kind of stuff too,” he said. “But I think we need to keep things in perspective sometimes.”

Q & A: Brandon Boykin

Brandon Boykin was kind enough to take a few minutes of his time to speak with Mr. Blog Man on Wednesday. Well, Boykin didn’t have any choice, as it was a designated media availability and I cornered him before it was time to leave.

Still, the junior cornerback and kick returner was kind enough to answer questions about Georgia’s motivation for the Liberty Bowl, how he evaluates his season, and his upcoming decision on whether to go pro.

SE: The UCF guys were in here earlier saying this game is important for them, to show out on national television, win their first bowl game, etc. What’s the motivation for you all?

It’s just as important for us. Having a season like we had, not really being used to it, this game is for our reputation. And our reputation is on the line, a winning season is on the line. We want our seniors to go out on top, we don’t want them to go out on their senior year with a losing record. We know Central Florida is going to be ready, they’re trying to build their program off this game. But at the same time we’ve got a lot to lose, and a lot to gain too, as far as how we handled this season and all the adversity. So we’ll be ready.

SE: A lot of teams that finished 6-6 with the expectations you all had would’ve been ready to pack it in, or would have already. You guys obviously didn’t. What was the reason there?

Because we knew what we were capable of doing from the jump. Coming into this season nobody expected us to lose maybe even three games. We had the talent to do it, when stuff started not happening our way, we kind of came back as a collective group, after that fourth loss, and told ourselves that if we wanted to make anything good out of this season we just had to shut it down right now and keep going. I think that just this team is really, really good at handling adversity. This whole season, people saw that throughout the year. This win would cap that off.

SE: How do you reflect on your season, individually?

(Thinks a few seconds). I think there were things I did well. I feel like coming into a new defensive scheme, not really knowing what to expect, we all helped each other learn it. I can’t really say, I can’t compare it to last year because it was a totally different scheme. I guess you’d have to give me another year to say I did really well this year as opposed to last year. But in the new scheme, I think everybody did as best as they could. But some things didn’t go our way.

SE: As far as stuff you could’ve done better, anything in particular?

Not really. Coverage-wise I think I played pretty well honestly. A couple games I felt like I didn’t get thrown to, but a couple games I did. There might have been a couple plays in a couple games where I didn’t make it; I’d have to go back and watch film and see. But (during) the season you can’t really do that, but after the season I’m sure there’ll be a lot of things I’ll look back and say (could’ve been done better).

SE: You mentioned giving yourself another year to look back on it. Are you definitely thinking you’re leaning that way, to come back?

I’m not leaning any type of way. Like I told someone else earlier, we don’t have enough information to make any decisions. So when people ask if I’m doing anything and I say I don’t know, honestly it’s because we don’t have enough information. I feel like after the bowl we’ll have a lot more information to give everyone a more in-depth summary of what we’re thinking.

SE: It’s the advisory committee you’re waiting on?


SE: Is there any round number or anything you’d be looking at?

I can’t really say right now because I don’t know what it’s gonna say. After the bowl, you get more information. You’ve got a lot more time to think. But right now we’re not focusing on that at all. We’ve got this game to play.

SE: From a personal standpoint, you got into the school of Journalism, but the NFL is
what it is. How does all that stuff figure in?

Just my opinion as to whether I think I’m ready to play. Do I feel like whatever grade I feel like is good enough for me. Do I feel like my coaches view me as someone that could play at the next level. Stuff like that.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nick Williams looking to transfer

The Liberty Bowl will apparently be Nick Williams’ final game in a Georgia uniform.

The junior from Bainbridge intends to transfer.

Williams has shifted between linebacker and safety the past few years, and the lack of a defined position has been a sore point for him, according to the source.

Williams has played eight games this year, with no starts, recording three tackles. He started the year at strong safety, then moved to middle linebacker, a scenario that also occurred his freshman season.

Update: 10:27 p.m. eastern

UGA has confirmed that Williams has been "given permission" to talk to other schools about transferring, according to associate athletics director Claude Felton. Williams hasn't officially told the team he's leaving, according to Felton, but he'll be given his release if he does.

The NCAA and its shifting goalposts

The NCAA, deservedly under fire for some recent rulings, went a bit on the offensive on Wednesday. The governing body of college athletics posted a lengthy comment on its web page, entitled: “NCAA statement on fairness of rules decisions.”

Here’s the link.

I’m supposed to be objective as a beat reporter, but the NCAA is making it harder and harder.

There are so many holes in that statement, and so many areas to poke and prod, it can’t all possibly be addressed.

We’ve been through the Cam Newton situation. That ruling almost seems reasonable compared to the NCAA allowing the six Ohio State players to delay their suspensions until after the Sugar Bowl.

Then we found out Wednesday, thanks to rather blunt statements by the Sugar Bowl chairman, that the bowl and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney lobbied the NCAA to allow the six to play in the Sugar Bowl.

The NCAA release on Wednesday stated that “any insinuation that revenue from bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is absurd, because schools and conferences receive that revenue, not the NCAA.”

Except, as the NCAA often points out, the NCAA is its member schools, not a separate governing body. Trying to act as if bowl money is completely unrelated to the NCAA is not only laughable, it’s disingenuous.

As others have pointed out, it’s also interesting that the NCAA would call playing in a bowl a “unique opportunity,” especially considering current players at Southern California are not being allowed to compete in bowls for two seasons, for violations that occurred well before their time.

The enforcement decisions of the past month or so lead to the conclusion the NCAA is just making things up as it goes along, and making selective enforcements. Now this release shows it’s moving its arguments selectively, forgetting what it said a week ago to make today’s argument.

The NCAA, simply put, is broken.

And for anyone who wonders whether I feel this way because I cover Georgia, and think A.J. Green got a raw deal: Nope, by the letter of its law, the NCAA made the correct ruling. Green himself said that.

But given recent events, I’ll ask this: If the jersey-selling incident were only coming up now, and Green (having played all season) was on the verge of winning the Heisman, and Georgia was in a BCS game, would the NCAA have still doled out a four-game suspension, starting immediately?

I’ll leave the question up to the room.

Postcard from Memphis: UCF stuff, UGA pro updates, and a lot more of Lott

MEMPHIS - For a second there, I thought Akeem Dent was about to tell us he tamed a Bronco on Tuesday night.

“They had a rodeo last night,” the Georgie middle linebacker began to say Wednesday, then added: “I was going to go to it, but I didn’t have a chance to do it. The time slot was just crazy.”

Oh well.

Dent did go on to praise the barbecue, specifically Rendesvous, which the Bulldogs had catered to Monday’s practice. (We media types get our round tonight.)

“That was probably the best ribs I’ve had in a long time,” Dent said.

Well, there’s your free advertisement, Rendesvous. I’m expecting a couple free beers out of it. Or a dozen, whichever you think is best.

Here, for your enjoyment, are some other notes from the morning’s press conferences, which featured Georgia and Central Florida defensive coaches and players.

- There was a lot of talk about UCF quarterback Jeffery Godfrey – well not from Godfrey, whom UCF is keeping off-limits to the media. But Georgia players say of all the film they’ve seen of the Knights, Godfrey stood out.

“With his skill level he’s pretty much similar to a lot of guys we’ve played against, running the option,” Georgia linebacker Justin Houston said. “But size-wise, we haven’t played a small quarterback like that.”

- UCF linebacker Bruce Miller, his team’s defensive player, talked about growing up rooting for Georgia. His idol was David Pollack, and he attended a lot of games at Sanford Stadium.

Despite that, Miller said he wasn’t hurt when Georgia didn’t offer. He has about 45 people driving over from home to watch the Liberty Bowl, plenty of whom are probably Georgia fans themselves.

“They better be in the black and gold, I know that,” Miller said.

- UCF defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable, taking a break from making sandwiches at his New York in-home medical practice, had this to say about Georgia's offense:

“They’re a lot bigger than we are. They have tremendous skill players. We’re not as big a defense. But we play hard and we’re fast. Their skill players and their ability to get the ball down the field vertical – along with their run game – they’re big across the front. I’m sure they’re going to try and run the ball and pound us. And then they have a great play-action off the run.”

- Look for Georgia defensive end Derrick Lott to get more snaps in Friday’s game. The redshirt freshman has impressed coaches in bowl practice, and earned a shot at more playing time.

“Derrick Lott is a guy up front that he’s got some physical tools to him,” Grantham said. “He’s a young player. We’ve just got to continue to work with him, develop him. And he’s a guy that could see some snaps I the game as we move forward. That’s an area where we need to find out, we need to maximize our snaps there.”

Lott, freshman Garrison Smith and sophomore Abry Jones figure to be the main guys at defensive end next season, according to Grantham.

“As we move forward, we’re gonna try to find out what’s the best combination of those guys,” Grantham said. “So Derrick’s a guy, we’re gonna see what he can do.”

- In more look-ahead mode, this time the inside linebacker spot, Dent thinks Marcus Dowtin and Christian Robinson will be the main guys, with Richard Samuel, Mike Gilliard and Nick Williams behind them.

“Next year I look forward to Christian Robinson and Marcus Dowtin, look for them to have a big year next year,” Dent said.

- The requisite to-go-pro-or-no questions: Brandon Boykin and Houston each said they’re no closer to a decision. Houston sounded somewhat honest when saying he still hasn’t given it much though.

“It’s crazy. I keep putting it off, but I really need to start thinking about it now because time is flying by and the time to make my decision is soon,” he said.

Houston said he’d sit down with Grantham and family members after the bowl game. Grantham, given his NFL experience, said he planned to sit down with both Houston and Boykin.

“When you have quality people in your program, and you have players that are explosive as they are at their positions, you obviously want to keep those players in your program,” Grantham said. “Now in saying that, you’ve got to look at each of their situations individually. You’ve got to talk to them about the plusses and minuses of staying and going. And ultimately, you do want to do what’s best for them and their longevity. … I would say that I’ll sit down with both those guys and kind of discuss that with them once the bowl is over.”

- Finally, some players were still shaking their heads over A.J. Green’s performance in the shooting contest Monday at the Grizzlies game. Green airballed two shots, and was one-for-five from beyond the arc.

“When you focus on one sport, you can’t be great in both,” Houston said.

Q&A: Branden Smith

MEMPHIS - Branden Smith is one of the Georgia football team's most dynamic talents, thanks to his speed. The Atlanta native has been a starter at cornerback, is the Bulldogs' main punt returner and has also seen time on offense.

But his sophomore season is incomplete, thanks to a pair of concussions he suffered in the middle of the season. Smith talked about that, and his sense that this was a lot season, as well as his openness to moving to offense - possibly even on a permanent basis.

SE: So how is Memphis so far?

Good. I got a chance to walk around a little bit and see some things. The downtown, basically.

SE: How do you evaluate your season?

For myself? Not so good, because I sat out a lot of games because of the concussion. I came back all right, but I missed a lot of games, so I don’t really count this season, really, for me. Hopefully next season will be better.

SE: How scary were the concussions?

They were scary. You know, two concussions in less than two weeks, that’s pretty scary.

SE: Obviously concussions have become such a big issue, in the pros and the country overall. What was it like having them in the middle of all that?

It was scary, like I said. It was my first two concussions really, and I didn’t really know anything about concussions because I’d never had one. But you’ve just gotta let it through. It’s a contact sport, and things are gonna happen like that.

SE: Did it make you evaluate anything: How you play, how long you want to play football, that kind of thing?

Yeah, yeah. They asked me how long I want to play football. They asked me if I had another concussion would I tell them. And they were teaching me the proper way to hit.

SE: I know when Bacarri Rambo had his injury last year, it took him awhile to get back to playing like he had before. What about you?

I’m still the same. Playing the same. I still have my speed and everything else. So I’m the same.

SE: So what about your future in terms of positions. Is there a part of you that would like to play more offense?

(Laughs) Yeah. Who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t like to touch the ball and things like that? But if coach Richt wants me to play offense, and it’ll help the team, I’m gonna go. I’m all about helping the team win. I’m a team player, so it really doesn’t matter what position I go play.

SE: Would you go over to offense full-time, or do you think you’re a full-time defensive player who would play some on offense?

If he wants me to go full-time, I’ll go full-time. If he doesn’t, I’m here to help the team win.

SE: Would you be a receiver?

I guess so.

SE: Is it something you’re really interested in?

I don’t mind playing receiver. That’s something I did in high school, so I wouldn’t mind playing receiver if it would help the team win.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Georgia-Ohio State on slate for 2020-21

For everyone who thought Greg McGarity was going to dumb down Georgia's football schedule, the first-year Georgia athletics director has yet another answer.

Ohio State and Georgia have a memorandum of understanding to play each other in 2020 and 2021, McGarity said on Tuesday. He said the agreement was signed last week.

McGarity said he set out to find a Midwestern, Big Ten-type team to schedule, and reached out to a number of them. Notre Dame and Michigan weren't interested, but Ohio State was, and something got locked up fairly quickly.

"I think the lure there is to try to play someone that has a rich, traditional football history," McGarity said.

Further details of the series - which home sites come in which year, for instance - are yet to be worked out. McGarity hopes that can be announced in January.

The memorandum of understanding is different from a signed contract, in that either school can escape it if something drastic comes up. Absent that, McGarity said an official announcement should be made shortly.

McGarity was also speaking to Penn State, but he said the agreement with Ohio State should close down those discussions, as well as any other big-time schools. Georgia prefers the seven home-game model, and besides the annual Georgia Tech game, also is set to play Clemson in 2013-14.

"These are the types of games you want to schedule every 8-10 years," McGarity said.

Last month, Georgia announced it would be playing Boise State in the 2011 kickoff challenge. McGarity's first big scheduling move came in September, when he canceled a planned series with Oregon set for 2015-16.

Postcard from Memphis: Airballs and ribs

The last time I was on Beale Street, it was warm, the music was loud, and the overall atmosphere was festive.

But a Monday night in late December? … Er, not so much.

The cold snap here in Memphis is apparently having an effect on even the social atmosphere, as many were not brave enough either to venture out, or if they did, to stay out long. Plus, it’s a long week ahead, so Monday night was one of those that for me and my friends, if you’re not feeling it, don’t push it. Conserve energy.

But we wanted ribs, so we had to at least do that.

As I’ve elucidated already, I didn’t have a great start to my Liberty Bowl week: A canceled flight led to a late arrival, though without my luggage. The suitcase finally arrived late on Monday night, but not before I went out and bought a new pair of clothes and shaving equipment, because I was sick of people stopping me on the street and putting change in my coffee cup.

(If they were giving me dollars, I would’ve run with it.)

Armed with the new apparel, I schlepped to the FedEx Forum for the evening’s designated bowl activity. Georgia and UCF’s players were invited to attend a game from the National Basketball Association, featuring two of the league’s marquee teams: The Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors.

(Seriously, can you think of two less-renowned teams in the league: Sacramento? New Jersey?)

The game apparently didn’t interest the Georgia and UCF players much either. About half the Bulldogs showed up, then began to fill out during the first half. A few just wandered the corridors, while most bailed to hit Beale Street, which is right next to the arena.

A.J. Green and Washaun Ealey first had an obligation: They were the designated duo to take on two UCF players, Marquee Williams and Latavius Murray, in a shooting contest. The players had 45 seconds to make as many shots as possible, alternating between each player.

Green, a fairly good high school basketball player, whiffed on a couple 3-point shots, but he did hit one. In all he was 1-for-5 from beyond the arc. Ealey hit a couple layups, which he settled for after missing two 3s, including one airball.

Luckily for the Bulldogs, the men on the other side of the court were struggling too, and Georgia was awarded a 9-8 victory. So an ugly, slogging victory for Georgia over UCF … A harbinger?

An awkward moment came at halftime: Mark Richt and George O’Leary were supposed to be recognized at midcourt The only problem: O’Leary wasn’t there. Richt did, and patiently waited on the side during the first portion of halftime activity: A little-league basketball game.

When that was finally over, Richt was introduced to the crowd, and it was clear that as many as seven people in the half-filled arena knew who he was. Richt, as always, remained a good sport.

At that point, I departed the arena with colleagues Gentry Estes and Marc Weiszer, ready for some ribs. After wandering a bit, and going in and out of several establishments – including one with a very persistent greeter – we settled on one place, based on the stringent criteria that Gentry was hungry and sick of walking.

So how good were the ribs? Well, let’s just say one member of our party, who fancies himself a rib connoisseur, was not suitably impressed. But the service was good, especially considering the pregnant waitress looked ready to pop at any moment.

No doubt, there will be more barbecue sampling throughout the week. Yes, Rendesvous is on the agenda at some point. And we've had no shortage of other suggestions, so it promises to be a busy week.

Today’s schedule for Georgia: A morning FCA breakfast, where the guest speaker was Dan Reeves. Then it’s a mid-day press conference, followed by a second day of practice. The evening activity is supposed to be a pro rodeo. I’m sure the Georgia coaches will be just fine with Green, Aaron Murray and Justin Houston trying to wrestle a bull. Should be fun.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bowl swag, 2010

There's a good reason players still want to play in bowls, even after a less-than-successful season: Free stuff.

The NCAA allows players to receive gifts from bowls, as well as their own schools. Here's a list of what Georgia players received this week from the Liberty Bowl:

- A Nike "sports package", which includes Nike shoes, sandals, sunglasses and a Jordan backpack.

- A Fossil bowl watch

- Bowl commemorative game ball. (Basically a Liberty Bowl football with UGA and UCF logos.)

- Apple Nano Ipod

In addition, Georgia was allowed to give its players gifts of up to $300. The school elected to bestow it in the form of a Visa gift card amounting to ... you guessed it, $300.

The media, in the interest of full disclosure, will receive gifts as well: duffle bag with the Liberty Bowl logo, and dinner at the Rendezvous. (If my luggage never gets here, that duffle bag may come in handy on the trip back.)

Postcard from Memphis: Brrrrrrrr

MEMPHIS - Ah, the bowl season, the perfect chance for a festive, warm getaway.

As long as you’re close to the heater.

It was a balmy 26 degrees on Monday morning when the Georgia Bulldogs took the field for their first Liberty Bowl practice. If only they had waited until noon, when it vaulted all the way up to 32.

More than a few staff members brought hot coffee with them out to the field. Mike Bobo had straight black coffee. No cream, no sugar, no nothing for the hardy offensive coordinator.

“It keeps my figure,” Bobo said.

Memphis native Marlon Brown pointed out that the weather back in Athens had been rather frigid for the first portion of bowl practice. That didn’t save Brown from some ribbing.

“The Florida guys are giving me grief because they went home and it was like 70 degrees. And they get mad at me because it’s cold here,like it's my fault,” Brown said.

The one consolation the Bulldogs were taking was the weather was supposed to improve by Friday – if 60 degrees and rain, the current gameday forecast, can be considered an improvement.

“I’ll take 60 degrees and rain rather than 20 degrees and 15 mph winds,” head coach Mark Richt said.

The weather around the East has been bad in general the past few days, causing almost everyone – other than Brown, who lives five minutes away – to get to Memphis later than planned. In fact, two players still hadn’t arrived by Monday’s practice.

Sophomore tight end Arthur Lynch, flying out of New England, couldn’t get out on Sunday, and with the blizzard hitting the northeast, was still having trouble as of Monday.

Freshman cornerback Jordan Love had his flight out of Washington, D.C., canceled on Sunday, and he wasn’t able to get another flight into Memphis until the next morning.

(I was on Love's canceled flight, so I guess I was luckier than him in getting re-routed to Memphis. But if Love's luggage arrives with him, he was better off than me. Even as I type this I’m still wearing the same clothes I wore all of Sunday. Which is just awesome.)

Then there were the three players who missed the game because of academic issues.

Head coach Mark Richt expounded a bit on the absence of Caleb King, who violated a school policy by missing five academic meetings. Richt made clear he had no qualms with the policy, which has been in effect for most of his 10-year tenure at Georgia.

“We have a plan for them, and if they follow it they’ll be fine. If they don’t, then they’ll have to suffer the consequences for it,” Richt said. “It’s not the policy’s fault, it’s Caleb’s fault for not following through on his responsibility.”

A few other tidbits as Georgia began its week in Memphis:

- The team picked quite a place to hold its practices: The Memphis University School isn’t a university, but the prep school probably has nicer facilities than most non-Division I schools. And maybe some of those too.

The buildings have pillars, the field has a pretty good press box, and there's a sport and fitness center. In general the campus looks like the kind of place where the parents have bumper stickers that say “My other car is a 100-foot yacht.”

“This is a nice place,” Richt said, in the kind of understatement that would make him sound almost British. “You couldn’t ask for a better facility.”

One of the reasons the Bulldogs picked it was because it has a turf field, just like the Liberty Bowl. Richt said he’d heard that other teams had used this field after bad weather, so they figured they might as well make it their home base.

- Brown and Austin Long, a freshman offensive lineman who is also from the Memphis area, each recommended one barbecue joint:

“They said that we had to eat Rendezvous barbecue, so that’s what we’re doing for lunch today. So we’re ready,” Richt said.

- Bobo was sporting a goatee, which he was awaiting word on whether he’d be able to keep for the game.

“It was something we were doing before we left. We’ve gotta decide if we’ve gotta shave before the game. Coach Richt hasn’t given us the verdict yet,” Bobo said. “The only time I had any growth this year was South Carolina. We lost, so out of superstition I’ll probably shave.”

I’d offer to let him use my razor, but that was in my luggage.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

UGA confirms that C. King, two others out

Let's take a quick break from travel hell day to officially report that Caleb King and two of his teammates will not be playing in the Liberty Bowl.

King is out for the game because of UGA academic policy, according to the football team. This comes as no surprise after earlier in the week, when the Bulldog tailback told a source that he was missing the trip because of an academic issues.

Two reserves, cornerback Derek Owens and offensive lineman A.J. Harmon, will also miss the game, according to the team. Owens and Harmon have what were described as NCAA-related issues.

UGA also said that all three players would be eligible for spring practice.

King's absence is the big one, especially with senior fullback Shaun Chapas also out, because of ankle surgery. Washaun Ealey and Carlton Thomas are basically all that's left at tailback; head coach Mark Richt said earlier in the week that freshman Ken Malcome would not have the redshirt taken off just for the bowl.

Georgia was in a similar spot midway through the season, when King was suspended two games following an arrest for failing to appear in court on a speeding charge. The Bulldogs ended up using Ealey and Thomas, while also giving carries to fullbacks Fred Munzenmaier and Zander Ogletree.

We will have more from Richt on Monday. (The plan was to have more from Richt today in Memphis, but thanks to travel delays, we're frantically typing this blog post in Charlotte, waiting for the connecting flight to Memphis. Well ... happy holidays!)

Destination: Memphis ... eventually (updated with cursing)

Updated: 2:35 eastern time

I wrote earlier in the day that I had escaped the traveling problems others had been experiencing. Yup, I jinxed myself.

Flight canceled - but not because of the snow, but because the Delta jet had mechanical problems. But since flights into Memphis were canceled left and right, I was lucky to be re-routed for a late-night flight, after a nice, long layover in Charlotte.


So this means I will not be at the Peabody Hotel later when Mark Richt was supposed to meet with the media. I'm assuming this will still happen, even though a) the coaches' charter flight out of Athens was delayed a couple hours, and b) they really can't hold a press conference without me. But they're going to anyway.

(I've also informed UGA that Jordan Love is in the same boat as me. I haven't seen him since our flight was canceled, so I'm not sure if he got a better re-routing, or is planning on hitch-hiking to Memphis.)

In the meantime, I've got a book to read ("The Nightmare Years, 1930-1940," by William Shirer), and a few people I can call and annoy. Otherwise, it's time to ... er, kill time.

So if you've got a good joke - clean or dirty - feel free to amuse me. (But not too dirty).

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The first time I was ever at this airport, formerly National Airport and now Reagan National Airport, was when I was four years old. My parents and I were moving to Spain, and my grandmother snapped a picture of me staring out the window, enraptured by airplanes and the life ahead.

I’m doing that again, staring out the windows, perhaps the same one, but this time I’m headed to Memphis. And I’m blogging about it. Back in 1980, I don’t think they had blogs. And Ronald Reagan wasn’t even President yet.

But they did have snow, which has wrecked havoc on travel plans throughout the Southeast. Knock on wood, I’ve escaped that, though there are some flurries here in D.C., we've already been delayed, and each minute that we don’t board I get a bit worried.

(I also get flashbacks to the second “Die Hard” movie, which was set at the other Washington airport. If I see a security officer who looks like Dennis Franz, I’m bailing.)

In any event, the trek to Memphis is in full gear today for Georgia players, coaches, staff and media. In contrast to other trips, the Bulldogs are on their own for this one, and will meet up for the first time in Memphis.

A lot of players are flying out of Atlanta today, at least whenever the weather will allow. Guys like Aaron Murray, leaving from sunny Tampa, are luckier. I’m told the coaches are flying together, while at least one official I spoke to on Sunday morning was driving, after barely getting out of his icy Athens sub-division.

I ran into Jordan Love, a native of Virginia who’s on my flight. He was wearing gray Georgia sweathshirt and sweat pants, so I felt safe in saying, “Liberty Bowl?” He laughed and said “yeah,” and then, since we were in an airport bathroom, quickly went our separate ways because men tend to feel very awkward conversing in airport bathrooms. (Unless you’re Larry Craig.)

Well I better run, because they've just made an announcement about another delay ... Good times ...

Once we’re all there, it should be a good time. As always, check here for news updates, as well as general impressions, anecdotes and all that other good stuff.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hoops: The ugly girlfriend index

Mark Fox tweeted after Thursday night’s three-point win at Mercer that “like my buddy once told my brother, an ugly girlfriend is still a girlfriend.”

Yeah, not sure I can agree with that one, coach. But the larger point is true: Margin of victory doesn’t count in college basketball, at least in its most important measurement, the RPI.

(That’s the Ratings Percentage Index, for the non-hoops geeks out there. And just a warning, for the next few months, there will be hoop geekiness on this blog.)

It’s been well-documented that the SEC has suffered a bunch of bad losses. Georgia’s an exception, along with Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Here, for your hoop geekiness enjoyment, are the current RPI rankings of SEC teams, according to, along each team’s losses.

8. Kentucky (9-2)

Losses: Connecticut (neutral), North Carolina (away)
17. Vanderbilt (9-2)
Losses: West Virginia (neutral), Missouri (away)
21. Tennessee (8-3)
Losses: Oakland (home), Charlotte (away), Southern California (home)
28. Florida (9-3)
Losses: Ohio State (home), Central Florida (neutral), Jacksonville (home)
49. Georgia (9-2)
Losses: Notre Dame (neutral), Temple (neutral)
62. Mississippi (8-3)
Losses: Dayton (home), Miami, Fla. (away), Colorado State (neutral)
84. South Carolina (7-3)
Losses: Michigan State (away), Ohio State (away), Furman (away)
152. Arkansas (8-2)
Losses: UAB (neutral), Texas A&M (neutral)
193. LSU (7-5)
Losses: Nicholls State (home), Memphis (neutral), Coastal Carolina (home), Wichita State (neutral), North Texas (home)
204. Alabama (6-6)
Losses: Seton Hall (neutral), Iowa (neutral), St. Peter’s (neutral), Purdue (away), Providence (away), Oklahoma State (neutral)
240. Mississippi State (8-4)
Losses: Florida Atlantic (home), East Tennessee State (home), Virginia Tech (neutral), Washington State (neutral)
330. Auburn (4-7)
Losses: UNC Asheville (home), Samford (home), Ccampbell (home), Jacksonville (home), Rutgers (neutral), South Florida (road), Presbyterian (home)

Q&A: Cornelius Washington

Some people were predicting a breakout year for Cornelius Washington, who as a redshirt freshman in 2009 had four sacks and 13 quarterback pressures. But it didn’t happen, as he spent the season rotating with Darryl Gamble at one of the outside linebacker spots.

Washington admits he could have done better, but has expectations to make 2011 his big season. I sat down with Washington on Monday – well actually we were both standing, but you get the point.

SE: How do you reflect on your season?

I feel like I helped us win the games that we did win. It wasn’t the best season I ever had, but I feel like I’ve done my part.

SE: Why wasn’t it your best season?

Well, it just wasn’t statistically the way I wanted it to be. But I had a role, and I stayed inside my role, and that’s all I can do.

SE: Do you feel like staying inside your role was more what the coaches wanted, or could you have done more?

I feel it was what the coaches wanted. You do what they ask you to do. They put the best people on the field and that’s what they did. So I just did what they asked me to do and did my best.

SE: You want a larger role though.

Everybody wants a larger role. Everybody wants to be on the field all the time. But that’s not feasible all the time.

SE: Darry’s obviously a senior and Justin may not be here. So do you view next year as a chance to step into one of those outside linebacker spots?

Oh yeah, definitely. The role I played this year, it wasn’t like I didn’t do anything. You know I had a pretty significant role this year. But next year my role on the team is definitely gonna pick up some. I’ll have more responsibility, so in that aspect I feel like I’ll be able to deliver.

SE: You feel like this year, you had high hopes to emerge, but now next year it’s definitely gotta be time?

You know coming into this year we had a new defense, new scheme, new this, new that. I definitely feel like it was gonna be a different scenario than what it played out to be. But I definitely feel like next year is gonna be the year for me.

SE: Did you get a chance to rush the passer this year, or did they have you more back in coverage?

Uh … some. I got a lilttle some. It was probably more often than I can remember. But really I didn’t make some of the plays that I should’ve.

SE: So you put it more on yourself. What did you need to do better in order to make those plays?

Well just get a better rush. Get off and get after the quarterback more often than I did.

SE: That’s what you’re going to focus on next year then? If Justin does leave, they’re going to need those edge-rushing guys.

Right. That’ll definitely be something I focus on too. But this offseason and this season I tried to work on my run game too. So I was trying to get that better. But next year I’ll definitely be ale to step up and be able to do something in the pass rush.

SE: I mean you’re definitely similar in size to Justin, and speed and athleticism, do you look at what he did and say –

I can do that. Yeah. That’s what it looks like. I feel like in practice we look real similar, and we do similar things. Make the same plays. So I definitely feel like next year is going to be a better year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tweets from last night

In case you missed it, Wednesday proved to be a eventful non-event.

First, WSB reported that sources said A.J. Green had decided to go pro. Then, a few minutes after midnight on this here East Coast, Green himself tweeted: “Idk (I don’t know) where these ppl got that I’m going pro. This is def. not true.”

He added a short time later: “Haven’t even made a decision yet!”

(Aaron Murray was also up after midnight, replying to Green’s first tweet with: “Heard your coming back to win a Heisman haha.”)

So what do we make of all this? Nothing, really. Everyone still assumes Green will go pro, but it’s at the point now where the next, and probably final, thing we’re waiting to hear is Green saying it himself.

In other news, I had a wonderful dinner at a Lebanese restaurant up here in D.C. I had the lamb stew. Then I kicked butt at darts. Now I’m having some wonderful cinnamon toast cooked up by my sister.

I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Tis better to receive, preferably downfield

Today, we discuss receivers, and the future of receivers at the University of Georgia.

Here’s a link to my story today on Tavarres King, who would have the inside track to be the go-to guy in 2011, assuming his talk-show sidekick A.J. Green takes his talents to the pros.

Kris Durham, who as a senior is definitely gone, also provided his outlook on the unit. Here’s what the team’s second-leading receiver this year had to say:

“You take out AJ, if he makes the decision to leave, then there’s gonna have to be some people to step up,” he said. “It’s gonna be guys like Tavarres, (Rantavious) Wooten, Marlon (Brown) is gonna step up tremendously, I got a feeling. There’s a lot of other guys like (Israel) Troupe and Logan (Gray) that have done good things when they’ve had an opportunity.”

Durham also singled out freshman Michael Bennett, who is taking a redshirt but traveled to every away game.

“The guy’s gonna be something special. He makes plays every day in practice, he’s done everything the coaches could’ve asked him,” Durham said. “You could see the strides he’s made in camp, till now, he’s a completely different player. So I think he’ll definitely step in and playa a major role.”

Green also had nice things to say about Bennett.

“He’s good. He’s real good,” Green said. “I believe he could’ve played this year. He was killing (for) the scout team.”

Bennett is on the shorter side, so if the team needs a tall threat – a la Green and Durham – all eyes will be on 6-foot-4 Marlon Brown, currently a sophomore.

Here was Durham’s scouting report on Brown:

“Marlon’s just a worker. He hasn’t had as many opportunities this year as he probably would’ve liked, but the guy continues to work every day,” Durham said. “He does what he’s supposed to do, he works hard, he does all the drills, he’s got a lot of ability. Whenever he’s had the chances this year he’s made the catches. … I really feel like he’s gonna break out next year.”

The nice thing about Green and Durham this year is that they were each good possession and downfield receivers. So what about next year? Who can Aaron Murray target when he needs that first down, and then who goes for the downfield bombs?

“If you look at guys like Tavarres and Wooten, they have a lot of speed,” Durham said. “They can take the top off the defense, they can go deep. But Marlon has some speed, Logan has some speed. Everybody has speed, so they have the potential.

“Everybody puts me as a possession receiver but I’ve averaged, I don’t know, probably around 20 yards a catch. People have the ability, it’s just whatever opportunities they get they’re gonna take advantage of.”

Georgia also has a few commitments from receivers: Justin Scott-Wesley, who is 6-1, is rated the nation's 14th-best receiver recruit by Chris Conley (6-4) and Zach Witchett (6-0) are both three-star recruits according to the recruiting service.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Caleb King not expected to play in Liberty Bowl

Barring a late turn of events, Georgia will not have its second-leading rusher when it arrives in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl.

Caleb King has told a source close to him that he is not making the trip because he is academically ineligible. It was not clear whether the issue was related to grades or another matter.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt said after Tuesday's practice that any word on academic issues wouldn’t come until Wednesday. He also wouldn’t comment when asked specifically about King.

“We won’t have the final report until tomorrow, so we’re gonna have to wait,” Richt said.

King has missed four games this year, two because of an ankle injury, and two for a suspension following an arrest, for failure to appear in court on a speeding ticket.

The junior from Norcorss, who started five games, has 430 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

LeMay joins the team, Richt mum on academic issues, and injury updates

It was getaway day in Athens on Tuesday: The football team held its last campus-based practice in the morning, then excused players to go home for the Christmas break. Those headed to the Liberty Bowl report back on Sunday, where it’s off to Memphis.

Head coach Mark Richt sat down with the media after practice, and a few tidbits were revealed, such as a future quarterback becoming (sort of) a current quarterback for the Bulldogs:

- Christian LeMay, the quarterback recruit from Charlotte, N.C., has been at practice the past three days, according to Richt. LeMay plans to enroll early.

LeMay is expected to be the team’s lone quarterback recruit this class, and will become the team’s third scholarship quarterback for next season. (Nick Marshall, who has also committed, can play quarterback but was recruited as a defensive back.)

While Aaron Murray has a stranglehold on the starting job, LeMay’s presence should give him a head start on competing with Hutson Mason for the backup role. (Richt wasn’t absolutely sure he could comment yet on LeMay, so he wanted to hold off on doing anything but confirming that he had been out there at practice.)

- Richt said any word on academic issues wouldn’t come until Wednesday, when grades are in. He also wouldn’t comment when asked specifically about tailback Caleb King, whose playing status is in doubt, according to a source close to the player.

“We won’t have the final report until tomorrow, so we’re gonna have to wait,” Richt said.

(And since the Bulldogs are off until Sunday, it might be until then that any announcement is made, if there’s any to be made. But it’s always possible that UGA could announce something before then.)

For what it’s worth, Richt said it wasn’t under consideration to take the redshirt off of freshman Ken Malcome.

- Defensive end Brandon Wood (shoulder) will not play in the bowl, so the senior’s career is over. Wood, a Buchanan native, played in 37 games, and recorded 16 tackles and one sack this season.

But another end, Demarcus Dobbs, is probable with a number of nagging injuries, including his elbow.

- Richt also updated the status of a couple players who had season-ending injuries. He does expect nose tackle Justin “Bean” Anderson to be ready for spring practice. Anderson had toe surgery after playing a few games.

But the prognosis isn’t as good for linebacker T.J. Stripling. Richt said he’d “be surprised” if the freshman was ready for spring practice, after having knee surgery in October.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mark Fox speaks, Mr. Blog Man listens

The Georgia men’s basketball team has a couple games before Christmas, including a sojourn to Macon on Thursday. Head coach Mark Fox discussed this and other matters, including his payout on his lost bet with Chris Barnes, on Monday.

- With four more games before SEC play begins (the Bulldogs play High Point on Tuesday night), Fox said he’s pretty comfortable with his team’s rotation. That’s despite not really being able to empty the bench, since it hasn’t had any comfortable wins this season.

Nine players got at least 10 minutes in Saturday’s win over Arkansas State, and Donte’ Williams and Connor Nolte also saw action.

“We’d like to get some guys still more minutes, to get their feet wetter than they already are,” Fox said. “But I think we’re starting to get a clear picture of what guys can do and what combinations work well together.”

- Fox brushed off the recent losses of SEC teams and what they mean to the league as a whole.

“If you just look at our side, so Tennessee lost a couple games. They also got some great wins,” Fox said. “Every league has a bad loss or two. Every league. Our league is no different. The ACC has them, the Pac-10 has them. The Big Ten has them. That’s something that’s not an issue just for our league.”

Fox had no way of knowing this, but as he was speaking Florida was in the midst of losing at home to Jacksonville.

MY TAKE: To be fair to Fox, he has to support and defend his league, but the fact is the SEC has more than a few bad losses. And it’s more if you count some of the blowouts, like Mississippi State to Virginia Tech.

“I haven’t seen it since, but last week our division had three teams in the top 10 of the RPI. And four of the top 25, so I think we’ll enough strength there,” Fox said.

As of Monday, Florida was No. 3, Kentucky was No. 7, Tennessee was No. 13 and Vanderbilt was No. 16.

Georgia was No. 42, while the two teams it lost to – Notre Dame and Temple – were both in the top 30.

- There might be more away games at smaller in-state schools in Georgia's future. The Bulldogs agreed to play at Mercer for scheduling purposes, but Fox said there are benefits to it as well.

"It might be a smaller gym but we like to play around the state a little bit,"" Fox said, pointing out that the Bulldogs played in Gwinnett last season. "So once in awhile we'll get out, just to make it easier for those fans to see us, who live in that part of the state."

MY TAKE: More and more big schools are having to play these games, because the mid-majors are jumping at the chance to do two-for-ones, as Mercer did in this situation. Honestly I'm not sure Fox really wants to do this on a regular basis, but it's a nice thing to say.

- Finally, Fox said he did make good on his bet to Chris Barnes. (Fox had told his senior forward, a 47-percent career free throw shooter, that he would run the steps at Stegeman Coliseum if Barnes hit two consecutive free throws.

It was reported in some outlets that Fox had to run at Sanford Stadium, but the coach said that wasn’t the case.

“I’m not stupid,” Fox said. “I’ll bet him that he’ll shoot 80 percent from the line – if he shoots that for the year, I’ll run Sanford Stadium.”

MY TAKE: It depends on how many levels Fox would have to run in order to say he actually "ran Sanford Stadium." If it's just from the ground up to the concourse, c'mon coach, that shouldn't be a problem. The whole stadium, yeah, that'd be crazy.

Green starts the Murray-for-Heisman 2011 campaign

Yeah, I know it sounds far-fetched. But this is what Georgia’s A.J. Green said when asked about his quarterback on Sunday:

“He’s gonna be something special. He’s probably gonna be up for the Heisman next year.”

Whoa there, A.J.

Yeah, Murray has had a fantastic freshman season – 24 passing touchdowns, only six picks, 2,851 passing yards, and four rushing touchdowns. But the Heisman?

Hey, no one figured Cam Newton would win it this year. So, why not?

A wise reporter (clearly, not me) followed up by pointing out to Green that Georgia would have to do better than 6-6.

“Yeah, we’re gonna do that,” Green said. “We’re gonna do that.”

(And by “we,” Green probably means as an alumnus watching from the NFL. But that’s a whole other matter.)

Actually, let’s break this down, first by the top 10 receiving Heisman votes this year:

1. Newton: Almost certainly going pro.
2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: Ditto.
3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon: A sophomore, he will enter as one of the frontrunners next year.
4. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: The junior, who with his height doesn’t make for a surefire NFL prospect, has said he’s coming back to school. And his first game next year? Against Murray and the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome.
5. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: Also a sophomore, but not many receivers since Desmond Howard have been in the running for the award.
6. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan: The sophomore’s candidacy may depend on whether or not his coach spends the offseason recruiting well or creeping everybody out by playing Josh Groban songs.
7. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: The junior is almost certainly gone to the NFL.
8. Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada: A senior this year.
9. Andy Dalton, QB, TCU: Ditto.
10. Owen Marecic, FB-LB, Stanford: Also a senior.

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, the SEC freshman of the year, also got a few votes. Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure, a junior, would also be someone to watch if he returns.

Sadly, the Heisman has basically become the award to the best player on the nation’s best team, or at least one of them.

So basically, sure, Murray could make a run next year – but he has to at least lead Georgia to the SEC championship game, and possibly further.

And yes, I just spent an entire blog post breaking down Aaron Murray’s chances for the Heisman Trophy. Hey, it’s a slow week. (So far.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Where things stand: Georgia's hoops resume'

Mark Fox pointed out a few weeks ago that his Georgia men’s basketball team doesn’t have a bad loss. And it still doesn’t, though not for an apparent lack of trying, judging by all the close calls.

Still, while not rolling over opponents, the Bulldogs are at least rolling up wins, and have a good chance to be 11-2 once SEC play begins.

And in case you didn’t notice, not having any bad losses puts Georgia in elite company in the SEC.

Tennessee, which for awhile ranked No. 1 in the RPI, just dropped consecutive games to Oakland and Charlotte. Suffice to say, the Vols no longer rank No. 1 in the RPI.

Florida (8-2) just beat Kansas State for an impressive win, but it also owns a loss to Central Florida. Yes, UCF is still one of the nation’s lone unbeaten teams, but still.

Every team in the West has at least one embarrassing loss. Ole Miss may be the class of that division right now, but the Rebels (7-2) don’t own a quality win, unless you count Penn State. And I don’t.

Then there’s Auburn, which at this point may welcome the NCAA vacating its entire season. How bad are the Tigers? Their RPI rank as of Sunday was 328 – out of 348 teams in Division I. The Tigers have lost at home to Presbyterian, UNC Asheville, Samford, Campbell and Jacksonville. The two teams they did beat are a combined 3-17.

Auburn by itself may drag down the SEC’s rank in the RPI one or two spots. Seriously, the Tigers are that bad. I can imagine every SEC coach with an NCAA-quality team being on the phone to Mike Slive, begging him to connect Cecil Newton to the Tigers’ basketball program. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the Tigers have anybody who is worth more than a scholarship.)

Back to the East:

South Carolina (7-2) has on paper the league’s most acceptable two losses, on the road to Ohio State and Michigan State. But the young Gamecocks were thoroughly thumped in both games, and pretty much non-competitive on Saturday at Ohio State. The Gamecocks don’t really own a quality win yet, unless you count Clemson and Western Kentucky. I don’t.

Vanderbilt (8-2) has largely taken care of business, losing just to Missouri and West Virginia, while knocking off North Carolina and others.

Kentucky (8-2) has losses are to Connecticut and North Carolina. It also defeated Notre Dame on a neutral court, which Georgia did not.

So basically, the East has been respectable, with some rather large blemishes courtesy of Tennessee.

What does this mean for Georgia? It means if the Bulldogs, whose current RPI rank is 48, can take care of business the next four games, then its NCAA resume’ should be in solid shape when Kentucky comes to town on Jan. 8.

So far, the Bulldogs haven’t done anything to really make a statement. But they also haven’t hurt themselves. And the way things have gone in the SEC, that in itself may be enough of a statement.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chapas done, so Figgins works at fullback

Shaun Chapas has played his last game for the Georgia football team.

The senior fullback will miss the Liberty Bowl because of ankle surgery, head coach Mark Richt said after Saturday’s practice.

As a result, tight end Bruce Figgins has been getting reps at fullback, in what could be a one-game move, or could carry into next year.

Chapas, a team captain, has struggled with his ankle most of the season, dating back to the South Carolina game. Richt said the injury simply got to the point where surgery had to happen.

“He’s been trying to play through it, but it’s just progressively gotten worse and he needed to clean it up,” Richt said.

Chapas had four touchdowns this year – two each rushing and receiving – along with 44 rushing yards and 29 receiving.

Figgins, a junior from Columbus, is third on the depth chart at tight end. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder has lined up in the backfield in some sets before.

“That’s not necessarily a full-time change. But we’re getting him some work there, because of depth issues,” Figgins said.

In the meantime, Fred Munzenmaier and Zander Ogletree, and Dustin Royston are also getting reps there.

Munzenmaier is also a senior, so the possibilities for fullback next year are Ogletree, Royston and possibly Figgins. Freshman Ken Malcome will stay at running back, Richt said.

In other injury news, defensive end Brandon Wood has a right shoulder injury and hasn’t participated yet in bowl practice. Richt said he thought Wood would be available after the Christmas break.

Barnes hits free throws, so Fox hits the steps

If Mark Fox didn’t get a workout in before Saturday’s game, he got one afterwards – thanks to a lost bet with a player.

Last year, with Chris Barnes struggling at the free throw line, Fox issued a challenge to Barnes: Make two free throws in a row, and the Georgia head coach will run the stairs at Stegeman Coliseum.

Barnes did that during Saturday’s 68-59 win over Arkansas State, a fact Fox grudgingly volunteered in his postgame press conference.

“Anytime he makes two in a row I’ve gotta run stairs. Anytime,” Fox said.

But Fox was still holding out hope he wouldn’t have to pay out.

“He may not remember, don’t remind him,” Fox said as he was leaving.

Too late, Fox was told.

Indeed, it was the first question asked of Barnes, who clearly remembered.

“I’ll be out there watching him,” said Barnes, a senior.

Trey Thompkins, the star forward, was also well aware of the bet.

“If I can make it, I’m gonna have my video camera,” Thompkins said.

Barnes entered the game 11-for-23 from the line, and is a career 48-percent shooter from the line.

Barnes, who was 2-for-3 from the line on Saturday, finished with a season-high 12 points, and played well enough that Fox started him in the second half.

UPDATE: Turns out Fox might have to run the steps twice. A check of the scorebook reveals that Barnes also hit two in a row against Colorado.

Hoops blog: Arkansas State

End of game, Georgia wins 68-59

Yeah, I wrote too soon earlier. Said something about it being a blowout, you could fall asleep at the end, yada yada ... Apparently it was Georgia that went to sleep once it went up 21.

Arkansas State ended up making a bit of a game of it, drawing within seven with 1:30 left, then got possession with 57 seconds left. But after a missed 3, Jeremy Price stripped the ball away, and UGA was able to finally breathe.

So it ended up not being a double-digit win. This ties the nine-point win over Colorado, also at Stegeman Coliseum, for the largest margin of victory this season.

Still, it felt like a blowout for much of the second half. Trey Thompkins finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, Travis Leslie had 14 points and eight rebounds, Chris Barnes added 12 points, and Dustin Ware had nine points and seven assists.

10:57 left in second half, Georgia leads 55-37

It's blowout time, finally, for the Georgia basketball team.

The Bulldogs appear set for a comfortable victory, barring some miracle run by Arkansas State. The last exchange of possessions showed it could happen - the Red Wolves made a 3 and the Bulldogs answered by throwing it away.

Still, Georgia has built up such a lead, and has played with enough urgency, that it should be able to cruise the rest of the way. It's been a well-rounded effort: Trey Thomkins has 13 points six rebounds, Travis Leslie has 11 points and six rebounds, Chris Barnes has eight points, Dustin Ware has seven ... I could go on.

It seems the break did the Bulldogs some good.

16:56 left in second half, Georgia leads 46-28

From the first moments of this half, Georgia has come to play.

The Bulldogs are on a 10-1 run since the half began, punctuated just now with a Gerald Robinson fast-break layup. That followed a 3 by Dustin Ware. And the half started with a Trey Thompkins layup, on a set play meant to get the team's star involved right away, unlike the first half, when it took awhile.

Arkansas State has called timeout to try to stop the bleeding. But Georgia is in great shape to at least avoid a Tennessee-Oakland redux - and the Bulldogs can now try to polish off their first actual rout of this season.

Halftime: Georgia leads 36-27

It took awhile, but the Bulldogs finally summoned the energy to take semi-control of this one.

The score was stuck at 25-24 for awhile, as Arkansas State missed several chances to take the lead. Then Gerald Robinson made a driving layup and Trey Thompkins converted a fast-break basket. After another lull, Sherrard Brantley nailed a 3 and it was up to an eight-point lead.

For much of the half, Travis Leslie seemed to be one of the few Bulldogs who was actively looking for his shot - sort of the opposite of the previous eight games, when everybody but Leslie was doing so.

But it seemed that at about the five-minute mark, the Bulldogs realized they were in yet another close game that shouldn't be close. The speed picked up, and not surprisingly the lead expanded. The key moment seemed to be the Robinson driving layup, which made it 27-24. The defensive rebounding also got a lot stronger at that point.

The half did finish on a bad note, however, as Georgia threw the ball away, allowing an easy Arkansas State layup as the buzzer sounded. Mark Fox is probably happy to have something to yell at his team about in the locker room - although the first 15 minutes provided that too.

10:28 left in first half, Georgia leads 23-18

One encouraging sign for Georgia so far: Travis Leslie has five points, after what's been a pretty quiet start to this season for the star junior.

Chris Barnes is leading the way for the Bulldogs with six points. The scoring is pretty spread around so far, and Mark Fox is using his bench liberally. These next five games will be a chance to iron out the rotation heading into SEC play, so guys like Sherrard Brantley, Marcus Thornton and Donte' Williams need to take advantage of their playing time.

Georgia's defense needs to clamp up a bit here. Arkansas State is getting more open shots than it should.

11:50 a.m.: Pregame thought

The line on this game is Georgia -12.5, which makes sense if you look at the team's records: Georgia is 6-2 and Arkansas State is 3-6.

But the big question is whether Georgia can really pull off a blowout win? They haven't yet: That nine-point loss against Colorado (when the Bulldogs pulled away late) remains the team's largest margin of victory this season.

Trey Thompkins' absence has had an impact on some of those close calls, obviously: The two-point wins over Mississippi Valley State and Saint Louis were without the star forward. But even with him (albeit hobbled) they barely beat Manhattan, UAB and Georgia Tech. (Those latter two games were against better opponents, obviously.)

Meanwhile, Arkansas State took No. 14 Memphis to overtime, and has won three of its past four. So ... who knows, this could still be interesting.

11:20 a.m.: Mr. Blog Man reports to duty

On a cold, rainy day, what could be better than coming to Stegeman Coliseum and covering a basketball game? Well, I suppose you could argue that sitting in front of a fire with some hot cocoa would be up there.

(I actually tried to merge the two and make a fire here in the press room, but that made the ushers pretty mad. Why no one said anything when I walked in with a bunch of wood and kindling under my arm, I don't know.)

Anyway, here we are at the arena, where Georgia will be taking on ... (looking at program) ... Arkansas State. Their nickname appears to be the Red Wolves, and they've got some height.

John Brady is Arkansas State's coach, so that's intriguing too. Brady, you will recall, is the former coach at LSU, where he led the Tigers to a Final Four, then two years later was canned. He was replaced by Trent Johnson, who happens to be close friends with fellow former Nevada coach Mark Fox. Small world, yada yada.

Brady was known as quite the character at LSU. One story I heard: Brady was once ejected early from a game at an SEC West opponent, and instead of sulking in the locker room, he spent the rest of the game wandering aimlessly around the campus.

The rain would probably prevent a repeat of that today, but if you do see a 50-something man wandering around campus and grumbling this afternoon, that might be him.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Copy of Aron White's Speech

Here, as provided by UGA, is the speech tight end Aron White gave at Georgia's commencement ceremony Friday morning.

I would like to start by saying good morning and welcome to our friends and family that have joined us to commemorate this occasion. But more importantly I would like to say congratulations to all of my fellow graduates.

Some of you might have recognized my name or face and thought to yourself, 'What is a football player doing giving our commencement speech? Haven't we given them enough attention? Surely we could have found a more intelligent or eloquent speaker.' To which I would reply I am sure both of those things could have been accomplished. I certainly never dreamed when I called coach Mark Richt and told him I wanted to be a Bulldawg that I would be speaking to my graduating class three and a half years after arriving on campus. But I have always valued my education. When I chose to come to the University of Georgia, I did so not only because of the athletic opportunities that I was offered, but also for the strong academic tradition that I would be blessed to be a part of. That is why I consider every day a blessing that I have spent here at this university.

I'm sure we would all agree that college days were the best of our lives thus far. We have met life long friends and formed invaluable connections, spent countless hours at the MLC cramming for tests or writing last minute papers. We have even cursed the parking services when we've found a pink envelope tucked neatly underneath our windshield wiper. We have been both shocked and intrigued as we read the headlines of the Red and Black. We have joined fraternities, sororities and other student organizations. And though my game day experience was a little different from all of yours, we've all spent our Saturdays at Sanford Stadium bleeding red and black. Georgia truly is everything that one could ask for in a university. From athletics to academics to Greek life to night life, we have done it all.

During our college days we have witnessed disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and the BP spill.We have seen innovations and technologies such as Facebook and the iPhone sweep over the nation and captivate our imaginations. We have seen multiple national championships in various sports. We have been the first class to have four different mascots while in attendance at Georgia. We witnessed three UGA students in just three years be named as Rhodes Scholars, two of which came in a single year. We have witnessed the election of the first African American president of the United States. We are working through one of the worst economic downturns in our country’s history and we are graduating into the most competitive job market since we have been alive. But I say to my graduating class do not fear or be dismayed.

Our college careers have been no different than our predecessors. We are still a top twenty public university. We have sat and listened to global leaders in our respective fields of study. We have read from the classics. We have even been named the number one party school in America. Given our record this year, at least we are number one in something. Time and time again we have stood up to the expectation placed upon us by those that have come before us.

I personally have stood next to some of the greatest athletes to wear the silver britches. I have played against first round draft picks. I have heard the crowds cheer from the hallowed sod between the hedges. I have received numerous academic and athletic awards. But I would not tell you that I am worthy to speak at an occasion such as this..... Not until today. It is not until today that I feel worthy to speak to all of you because today is the day that I will have the honor to cross under the famed Georgia arch. I know that my mother and father have not felt the pride they feel at this very moment. I know this because all other achievements and accolades in my life have fallen short of everything that a degree from this great university stands for. A degree from Georgia represents our entire college experience. It represents the knowledge we have aquired through our classroms. It represents the maturity we now possess. It represents the character that we have demonstrated through on and off campus activities. And for a lucky few of us, the honor of representing UGA through intercollegiate athletics. Sir Thomas Carlyle once said, "what an enormous magnifier is tradition!." I could not be more honored to be a part of the tradition of commencement and have the chance to share with all of you just how big of an accomplishment you have achieved.

In closing, to all those sitting before me who will receive their degrees today I applaud you. The world is full of limitless possibilities. And though I cannot predict the future as we make our transitions from undergraduates to graduates I have no doubt that we are prepared for the world. In my opinion the question should be.......... Is the world prepared for us? Congratulation graduates.

Stafford wanted to return? And other notes from Richt

Mark Richt never mentioned any names. Still, as he spoke Friday about the decisions facing underclassmen, it was clear he was doing a bit of politicking for guys to stay in school.

“If a guy has the ability to improve his draft status from one year to the next, then that’s something he needs to consider,” Richt said. “Because the NFL’s pretty simple in the draft.

"You’re slotted in the second round, if you’re the 10th pick in the second round, you’re gonna get about this much (money) plus about three percent. … So if you have a potential to move yourself up to the mid-first, and you look at the difference between (those two rounds), that’s a tremendous difference in guaranteed money.”

Those comments sounded very similar to what Richt said after the Georgia Tech game when asked about linebacker Justin Houston - who is projected anywhere from mid-first to second round.

The general assumption is that receiver A.J. Green would be one of the top picks in the next draft. That leads many to think Green won’t think twice before turning pro, just like Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno did in 2009.

But from Richt’s standpoing, it’s not an easy decision.

“People might’ve thought, Stafford and Moreno (were like) ‘Hey I’m outta here,’” Richt said, snapping his fingers. “I know that they know when they leave early they’re missing something. They’re missing part of what they signed up for, so to speak. …

“I don’t think Stafford wanted to go. But I think Stafford knew he couldn’t improve where he was.”

Stafford ended up being the top overall pick in the draft, and Moreno also went in the first round.

But Georgia has had other players pass on the pros and stay for their senior years, most notably David Pollack.

“I think there’s value in being a senior and a leader,” Richt said.

A few other notes:

- James Kennedy, the man otherwise known as “Radio,” was a special guest at Friday’s practice. He was there with former T.L. Hanna (S.C.) High School football coach Harold Jones; the pair were the subject of the 2003 movie “Radio,” starring Cuba Gooding and Ed Harris.

- Tight end Orson Charles said he was pumped about new strength coach Joe Tereshinski II.

“I’m kind of excited. Because personally, he told me he’s gonna make me 250 (pounds),” Charles said. “And he also said he’s gonna make me faster. So I wanna see if he can really do that.”

- Richt said he was happy for former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who signed on Wednesday with LSU after spending a year in junior college. Mettenberger was dismissed from Georgia after spring practice following repeated off-field issues.

“I love Zach, I love his family,” Richt said. “We’ve been knowing him since he was a peanut, and I’m really glad that he had the season that he had. … He’s got a great opportunity at a great school.”

Richt said LSU head coach Les Miles never solicited his opinion about Mettenberger.

- While Richt was quite familiar with new Florida head coach Will Muschamp, he wasn’t sure he’d ever met the other new coach in the SEC East: James Franklin, who was hired by Vanderbilt on Friday.

“I know the name,” Richt said of the former Maryland offensive coordinator. “I’m trying to think if we’ve met. I’m not sure. He likes to spread it out, right?”

As Glenn stays mum on NFL, Searels mulls the future

Cordy Glenn says he isn’t thinking about going pro yet. But the possibility is in his position coach’s mind.

Glenn, a starting guard, and left tackle Trinton Sturdivant each submitted their name to the NFL draft advisory board. They might not go pro, but offensive line coach Stacey Searels knows there’s a chance.

“We’ll cross that bridge when it gets here, and I think that’ll be right after the bowl,” Searels said. “My hope is that they make wise decisions. I think they’re both good players, and I do want to coach them next year.”

When asked specifically about Glenn and Sturdivant, the coach added: “I’ve talked to those guys, and like I said I hope they both stay here next year. I’ll say this: I hope they both make wise decisions. OK?”

Then he laughed, almost nervously. Searels has been around long enough to know there’s only so much he can control.

Even Glenn admitted that when it comes to the draft, “guards and centers, it’s kind of wishy-washy on how they can get drafted.”

So why did he submit his name?

“I was curious of what the NFL thinks of me,” he said. “I think that’s why most people do it.”

Glenn was recently rated, by ESPN’s Mel Kiper, the top guard prospect among underclassmen. So he could stand a good chance of getting drafted, but the question is whether he could improve his stock by coming back for another year.

“I really haven’t tried to think about that,” Glenn said. “I’m trying to stay focused on Georgia football and the season, and trying to end on the right note.”

Sturdivant’s thoughts cannot be divined because he is unavailable to the media. The former SEC all-freshman standout has had a couple knee surgeries, but was healthy enough to start several games this season.

“They’ve got to look at their projections of where the NFL people say,” Searels said. “And then I think it’s still a crapshoot. Because how many times do you see a guy that’s projected as say a first rounder and he sits in that green room till he’s in the second or third round. If a guy that’s a first-rounder can drop, then a guy who’s ranked a little bit lower, where will he go? So they’ve gotta make wise decisions. They really need to look into all the aspects and advantages of coming back vs. going out.”

Searels, for his part, said he’s excited about the players he knows are coming back, especially some youngsters that didn’t see much action this year. That includes Austin Long and center Chris Burnette, each of whom should be at full-speed for spring practice.

Kenarious Gataes seems to figure heavily in plans next year. He started several games at right guard this year, but he could play some tackle too.

“I think that scenario depends on who’s back,” Searels said.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Two UGA players come to aid at accident scene

The inclement weather led to a couple Georgia football players performing a seasonal good deed.

Tailback Washaun Ealey and linebacker Mike Gilliard helped a student bus driver who had crashed into a set of trees late on Wednesday night. The incident occurred at the corner of Cedar and Sanford, where the roads were wet and icy.

According to an account provided by each player, the pair was driving home, behind the campus bus, when it hydroplaned and ran into some trees. The bus, which was empty other than the driver, stayed upright. But the players saw a limb sticking through a window, and could hear the student bus driver, a woman, shouting for help.

“We just wanted to help her out, that’s all,” Gilliard said.

Ealey stopped the car, and the two players got out, then pried open the back door to the bus. When they got inside, the driver was still in the driver’s seat.

“She was panicking. She was crying. She was thanking God that she didn’t get hurt,” Ealey said.

“I guess she was just scared to move, basically,” Gilliard said. “She said everything was OK.”

The players helped the woman out of the bus, then stayed with her a few minutes until police showed up. Then the players went about their night.

“We just started calling everybody,” Ealey said, laughing.

Indeed, the word quickly spread around the team.

“Mike and Washaun think they’re superheroes now, like they lifted a bus or got a cat from a tree,” Rambo said, smiling. Then he turned more serious: “That was a good thing they did. It shows they care and they love everybody. It shows how they were raised up. Anybody could’ve kept going, but their parents raised them to stop and help out.”

Head coach Mark Richt commended the players in a statement.

"Those two guys did a very good deed," Richt said. "They stopped and helped out and I'm proud of them. The assisted someone who was in distress, which is a good thing."

Mailbag! Get your mailbag!

Hey ... how are ya? Good? Got your Christmas shopping done? Me neither. You know how everyone just says, "Oh get me anything, it'll just be good to see you again and be in your company ..."

Yeah, that's crap. They want good gifts. If you give them a dud, they put up a good face, they pretend to like it, but you're a smart guy. You know they don't like it, and they know you know. Merry Christmas, jerk.

But anyway ... Here's the mailbag!

1) If Grantham didn’t have the right personnel this past season to make the 3-4 work, what gives us hope that he will have them on next yrs D? Houston is supposedly moving on to the NFL, our D line, LB, and secondary will effectively be the same units. I know we have some recruits, but how often do you see true freshman starting day 1 in the SEC? Am I missing something here?
- Matthew Alexis

No, you’re not missing anything, it’s genuinely a cause for concern that a defense that largely struggled will likely be losing its two most productive players. That’s why the next few weeks of recruiting is key for Georgia: John Jenkins, the nose tackle from Mississippi (not the shooting guard from Vanderbilt) could start right away, and defensive end Ray Drew would be in the mix too. Among players on the current roster, Jarvis Jones and Richard Samuel could contribute right away at linebacker. At nose tackle, the staff is holding out hope for Kwame Geathers. And everybody but Vance Cuff (and perhaps Brandon Boykin) returns in the secondary – but they better use their experience to play better on third downs.

2) Do you think Richt made a mistake by not hiring a 4-3 DC? In today’s SEC, and especially with the down seasons we have had, did Richt really have a season or two to completely rebuild the D? Would simply improving the 4-3 D have been a smarter decision?
- Matthew Alexis again

The proliferation of spread offenses was a big reason for the switch, although ironically arch-rival Florida is now shifting back to a pro-style attack. Either way, I think Richt still feels that in a speed-oriented league, the 3-4 is the best way to combat it. If he’s having any regrets, it’s too late now. They’re committed to this scheme and recruiting for it.

What are your impressions of Grantham as a communicator? When speaking with him, is he the kind of man who, in your estimation, is persuasive? Could he sell ice to an Eskimo?
- Anonymous

I think Grantham’s method of “persuasion” is a lot different with recruits than it is with current players. A former player told me that he’s a lot more like Brian VanGorder – who wasn’t afraid to call out players in the film room, and use salty language while doing it. Willie Martinez was a lot more laid-back, which may have been part of his undoing.

Who is the most vocal coach at the limited practices you have seen? Player?
- Anonymous

Scott Lakatos springs to mind first, though others could have a different impression. It probably depends on the practice. (Plus Lakatos had a lot to get ticked at this year.)
Player-wise, we actually asked Grantham yesterday who would be the leaders on next year’s defense. He listed Justin Houston and Brandon Boykin (if either returns), then Jarvis Jones, Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree.

On offense, it tends to be the linemen and the seniors.

Do you agree with the Rivals selection of Nebraska's Taylor Martinez over Aaron Murray for 1st team All-Freshman?
- HowMuchYouBench (via Twitter)

First off, having just come from the gym, I can report that I don’t bench very much. Someone needs to get me in touch with Victor Conte.

Secondly, I doubt Murray is losing much sleep over it, but yeah, he probably should’ve gotten the nod, based on stats, and the fact his coach never got so ticked at him it led to a national story. The reason Martinez got picked probably had everything to do with Nebraska having a better record and being in its conference title game, while Murray’s great freshman season, as I’ve said before, was overshadowed by Georgia’s mediocrity.

Based on team position needs and D scheme, how is recruiting shaping up?
- Joe Mac (via Twitter)

Nothing much has changed since earlier this week, when I posted the recruiting blog. Although Georgia did lose out, as expected, on JUCO defensive end “Tank” Carradine. Which is unfortunate, because I would have loved writing “Tank” and making Kung Fu Carradine references for the next couple years.

Hoops question: What should we look for in the remainder of the non-conf schedule from the hoop Dawgs?
- NCDawg.

Taking the Xavier game out of the equation, since it falls in the middle of SEC play, the remainder of non-conference play should be a great chance for the Bulldogs to flesh a few more things out: The rotation, who can the 3, and continue to get used to playing at full capacity, with Trey Thompkins back. Something else that needs to get settled: Travis Leslie, who is off to a slow start.

I'm curious about how much time we are looking at before CTG believes he has a fully functioning unit? I understand the personnel issues, most notably at NT, so I can see why UGA wouldn't have the same immediate change as other programs have seen (MSU for example), but how long approximately are we looking at before we do see change? Are we talking one recruiting cycle or four?
- Anonymous

I think they were hoping to see improvement this year – and they did, but in small doses. The failures were spectacular (at South Carolina, Arkansas in the final minute, and so forth). If I could predict when (or if) the defense would be much better, I’d be writing you from Las Vegas right now, not my home office in Athens.

Mr. Blog Man, For the mailbag- I just watched the Richt press conference at I noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the sound, lighting and speed of the video download. Is this a McGarity influence or did Claude just figure out how to host a higher quality presser on his own?
- Anonymous

Honestly, I have to plead ignorance on this one. Since I’m at all the press conferences, I don’t watch them on replay. If it has improved, I would ascribe it to someone behind the scenes, and just the natural progression of technology. Greg McGarity and Claude Felton have an awful amount of stuff on their plate, so I suspect this doesn’t reach their pay grade.

Seth, any word as to why (Isaiah) Crowell backed out of his official this past weekend? Rumor is something about a friend’s party being more important. Curious if I’m the only one to have heard this.
- Logan

I’ll have to plead ignorance on this one too. But I’d caution everyone not to get hung up on the whims of teenagers. It’s why I don’t cover recruiting on a day-to-day basis. From a reporting perspective, I cover recruiting from a big picture angle (who has committed, who they’re still after, how it fits into the team, etc.) I do know the sentiment among the experts, the ones who do cover it daily, is that Georgia has the best chance for Crowell AT THE MOMENT. But again, we’re talking about teenagers here.

Would "Mr. Blog Man" fit on the back of a jersey?
-Ubiquitous GA alum

You better believe, we’re going to find out soon.

What exactly is your job? Seriously I would like to know. Like do you solely get paid by the newspaper you work for? Do they say you have to have this blog and be on Twitter or is that your decision? You don't make any money from this blog right? What are you paid to do by the newspaper you work for? Just to cover all Bulldog sports?
- RayJayCrowell

Thanks for asking, and hopefully I can give you a full, albeit condensed answer: I’m the UGA athletics beat writer for the Macon Telegraph and Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, as well as a bunch of other McClatchy papers that share material. But I report directly to the bosses at The Telegraph. My job is to cover every sport, but mainly football and men’s basketball, on a daily basis: That means covering games, writing features, reporting news, chasing down arrest reports … all that fun stuff.

The blog and Twitter feed are not mandated, and essentially are extra and meant to complement and help promote the stories in the paper. But in this day and age, clearly a blog and Twitter are more necessary. The first priority will always be the daily coverage in the papers. (And when I say papers, I don't literally mean just the print form, since it all goes online and plenty of people read it there too.)

The blog is fun, and a useful place to post news when it happens, but no, it doesn’t pay the freight.

6'2, 175? You don't have the right body type to be a sportswriter!
- Anonymous

In defense of my profession, the stereotype doesn’t fit as much anymore. My former partner on the South Carolina beat is a triathlete who is running in a marathon soon. And I’m not afraid to say that when we ran a 5-mile race a couple years ago, I still kicked his butt.

But the problem with being a runner is that it’s hard to put on muscle. Unless Victor Conte returns my call. We’ll see.